This is Bruce’s #1 favorite soup! I usually make it for a first course when we have guests, and it would be a wonderful dinner for any family who doesn’t have a child who says, “It’s too lime-y.” The lime really “makes” it so I can’t bring myself to do the cooking, which is actually relatively quick and easy, and leave the lime out. I suppose it would make a fine dinner-party main course, too–and one that would call for a heftier appetizer than a salad–but I just haven’t done it yet (let me know what you think). I found this in The New York Times—it was adapted from El Mirador in San Antonio—and I first made it with Emma in our Cooking School.
(serves 4 to 6)
Vegetable oil for frying
8 oz. corn tortillas (preferably a mixture of red, white and blue), cut into 1-inch strips
1 8- to 9-inch stick Mexican cinnamon broken into pieces
2 t. dried Mexican oregano
5 whole cloves
8 cups chicken stock
1 lb. chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch dice
4 to 6 T fresh lime juice, as needed, plus 4 to 6 slices of lime, for garnish
8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 avocados, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup finely sliced cilatro leaves
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add about 1/2 inch oil. Set aside a baking sheet lined with paper towels. When oil shimmers, add a strip of tortilla; oil is hot enough when tortilla becomes crisp and very lightly browned in about 30 seconds. Adjust heat as necessary and add strips in batches, transferring to paper towels as they cook.
Heat oven or toaster-oven to 400 degrees. Place cinnamon pieces, oregano and cloves on a baking sheet or metal tray, and roast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes; be careful not to burn.
Place chicken stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add roasted spices, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour stock through a fine-meshed strainer into a clean pan, and return to a simmer. Add diced chicken and simmer until chicken is opaque in center, about 10 minutes. Add 4 to 6 tablespoons lime juice, as desired, and season with salt to taste.
To serve, place equal portions of chicken in center of each soup plate. Top with a small mound of fried tortilla strips and 1 to 2 tablespoons shredded cheese. Pour chicken broth into bowl, keeping mound intact. Garnish each bowl with avocado, a slice of lime and cilantro.